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MS master-slave ratings drop

But the overdog still gets 60 per cent approval

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Fewer users have a favourable image of Microsoft than two years ago according to polls undertaken for the New York Times. These show that Microsoft's image has dropped 19 per cent, with only 60 per cent now having a favourable opinion of the company. In the latest NYT survey, 53 per cent thought that Microsoft had a monopoly, and 60 per cent thought the case should continue. Gates (or maybe his wealth) is viewed positively by 39 per cent, and unfavourably by 8 per cent - but there's an awful lot of "don't knows". Susan Fournier of Harvard Business School, who uses relationship theory to track consumer attitudes, said that the relationship that Microsoft has with its users is "master-slave". We'd go along with that. Apple, however, is seen as "a close friend". In another study, Techtel found that Microsoft's net positive rating (the positive opinions minus the negative opinions) had dropped from 60 per cent two years ago to 44 per cent now. Microsoft says its own research does not find any erosion in its public image, and claims its favourable ratings hold steady at 75 per cent. Probably Microsoft is using the same methodology it demonstrated to Judge Jackson. There has not been a great deal of US press coverage about the case other than in a few serious papers and magazines, so the average reader of the locally produced "newspaper" would not be informed about the details of the trial (and 26 per cent of NYT respondents said they had "heard nothing about it"). Microsoft's objective all along has been to drag the case out to keep it off the front pages, and in this at least it has succeeded. ®

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